The Pistol and The Killer
April 28, 2007 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Sports Bio Recomendations.

Today, I bought this bio of Pete Maravich and so far it's excellent. I'm also working my way through this bio of Sonny Liston. They're both looks at sports figures who were extremely famous for a brief period and then faded from the public consciousness, yet seemed to define their epoch, since sports, like movies or popular music is a great prism through which to view the zietgeist of an era. Bith books are also extremely well written by professional authors, not hacks. Anybody have any other recommendations in the same vein?
posted by jonmc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
not exactly a "bio" but try The Punch
posted by teishu at 5:57 PM on April 28, 2007

I just finished reading "My Losing Season" by Pat Conroy, a memoir of his senior year playing guard for the Citadel, and greatly enjoyed it.

It's more about obscurity, amateur sports, the particular personalities and dramas of that season, and being 22 and in a military academy in 1966, than the stuff you mention about Maravich and Liston, though, so please disregard if it is not what yo're looking for. A terrific read, though.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:02 PM on April 28, 2007

no, ibmcginty, that sounds interesting as well. I'd expand the question to any sports related books in a similar vien to what I've decribed although biographies are my primary interest.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on April 28, 2007

The Best American Sportswriting of the Century (David Halberstam, ed.) is a must.

Gay Talese's sad, unflinching profile of Joe diMaggio in retirement.

Tom Wolfe's epic piece on NASCAR legend Junior Johnson.

Hunter S. Thompson on the Kentucky Derby.

And an entire *section* on Muhammad Ali.

Some of the best American journalism in the last century was sportswriting, and this is a fair sample.
posted by enrevanche at 6:13 PM on April 28, 2007

The Blind Side is a great book. It recounts the rise of left tackle Michael Oher, and uses that fabulous story as a vehicle to discuss the way that football has changed over the last hundred years.
posted by painquale at 6:19 PM on April 28, 2007

As recommended over in MeCha, if you're open to autobiography (and haven't already read it): Jim Bouton's Ball Four.
posted by scody at 6:45 PM on April 28, 2007

The best book on boxing I have ever read, and in my top 50 books of all time is The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling. I think you would like it.
posted by vronsky at 6:46 PM on April 28, 2007

Although you may not be especially interested in UK soccer.

Stan Collymore had the talent to be world famous (I'd defend that statement in any bar arguement), but he became more notorious for his various off-field misdemeanors and ended more or less unemployable in his late 20's early 30's

Summary: poor mixed race kid in the UK, talented young footballer, incredibly rich footballer, beat up famous girlfriend in public, got caught 'dogging' by national newspaper, releases pretty honest book.
posted by selton at 6:46 PM on April 28, 2007

Have you seen this Pistol Pete documentary? It made me cry.
posted by vronsky at 7:48 PM on April 28, 2007

This John Updike essay on attending Ted William's last at bat is a gem.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu

(I have heard it referred to as the best piece of sports writing ever. ymmv of course. Roger Angell said that he has had more compliments on this essay than any of his others;)
posted by vronsky at 8:06 PM on April 28, 2007

they call me coach and any other Wooden books are awesome. Careful though, they will make you want to be a better person. He is like a Mr. Miyagi for your soul.

this YA Tittle bio and On Boxing are about all the rest I can think of right now. The JCO book sounds dry but it is very entertaining and readable.
posted by vronsky at 8:24 PM on April 28, 2007

Seconding Conroy's "My Losing Season".
Truly wonderful.
posted by Dizzy at 8:29 PM on April 28, 2007

here's another not-really-a-bio-but-its-still-nonfiction recommendation: The Miracle of Castel di Sangro is a personal favorite. kind of a rags to riches to rags story.

per enrevanche's post, here's a link to HST's "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved".
posted by the painkiller at 9:01 PM on April 28, 2007

I recommend When Pride Still Mattered a biography of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss.

Seconding learning about John Wooden. Great man and a very inspiring man. Consider, My Personal Best written by the Wizard of Westwood himself.

Did not like Conroy's book about playing basketball for the Citadel. It was sort of repetitive. It could have been cut in half and then would have been a decent read. (Just my $0.02)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:01 PM on April 28, 2007

Slight derail about John Wooden. He has created many phrases to use in basketball and life such as "Be quick, but don't hurry." Bill Walton, who played for Wooden at UCLA used to write one Wooden quote per day on his son (who now plays in the NBA) lunch bag. I have taken to copying that idea. My kids love it. I add quotes other than Wooden's but if I miss it, they tell me that all their friends are pissed there was no quote that day.

Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

Wooden Quotes.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:07 PM on April 28, 2007

I liked "Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics" by Jeremy Schaap, even though it's a tad after school special-y.
posted by emd3737 at 10:53 PM on April 28, 2007

What an excellent idea!
I'm bookmarking that site and filing away your idea for my own little boy!
posted by Dizzy at 11:18 PM on April 28, 2007

I Play to Win by Stan Mikita.

gotta love that title.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2007

Thanks guys. I'm about a hundred pages into the Maravich book and it's excellent just so you know.
posted by jonmc at 6:52 PM on April 29, 2007

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